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Origins: Spencer Rifle

Joe Offer 24 Sep 18 - 11:29 PM
Joe Offer 24 Sep 18 - 11:42 PM
Bonzo3legs 25 Sep 18 - 03:03 AM
Lighter 26 Sep 18 - 09:51 PM
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Subject: Origins: Spencer Rifle
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Sep 18 - 11:29 PM

Can anybody give us additional information about the song "Spencer Rifle"? Cordelia's Dad recorded the song on their album, Spine. LEJ, where did you get your lyrics? From Cordelia's Dad? The lyrics from LEJ match the Cordelia's Dad Website lyrics exactly.

    Thread #46131   Message #683052
    Posted By: Lonesome EJ
    04-Apr-02 - 03:33 PM
    Thread Name: 'Unprintable Songs' (Randolph/Legman)
    Subject: Lyr Add: SPENCER RIFLE

    Vance Randolph compiled a huge amount of folk material he collected throughout the Ozark Mountains. Much of it was recorded and released immediately, but another whole genre of songs and stories were set aside as too off-color for the popular taste. Recently, this off-color material was printed as Unprintable Songs. This book sells for $60, and it isn't currently in my budget, but as a fan of naughty stuff in general, I'm highly interested in the songs. Does anyone have the book? If so, can you post any lyrics from it? I'll post one that I have found below.


    When Johnny came to my house,
    I swore he'd come to see me.
    Soon I'd found the rascal out,
    he'd only come to squeeze me.

    He grabbed me round the slender waist,
    and on the bed he throwed me.
    The prettiest thing I ever saw,
    he pulled it out and showed me.

    He said it was his little gun.
    He asked how it would suit me.
    He shoved it down between my thighs
    and swore by God he'd shoot me.

    Well, I said, "John, your gun's no good,
    or your no good at gunning.
    If you can't hit a lying mark,
    then what'd you do a-running."

    Well, "Gee," said John, "my gun's alright.
    I got it from Old Spencer.
    Now you lie still, and hold the mark,
    and I'll sure knock it center."

    Well, Katie laid still, and held the mark.
    For him, it was no trifle
    for to soon show her what he could do
    with his old Spencer rifle.

    Katie was a fair and a charming maid.
    She wasn't barely twenty.
    By the time he'd fired seven rounds,
    well, he'd had pork aplenty.

    Her mother finally found them out.
    Good order she commanded.
    John cocked up with a double load,
    and he shot at her off-handed

Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song:

Old Spencer Rifle,The

DESCRIPTION: The singer tells of Johnny's visit, and his "shooting" her with his gun, no less than seven times. John does the mother too and goes off with his gun-barrel bent.
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1942 (collected by Vance Randolph from Booth Campbell)
KEYWORDS: bawdy sex
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Randolph-Legman I, pp. 128-129, "The Old Spencer Rifle" (1 text, 1 tune)
Roud #11499
NOTES [190 words]: Annotator Legman in Randolph-Legman I asserts that the melody of this apparently unique ballad is "unmistakably" similar to "Yankee Doodle." In fact, it directly quotes "Cotton-Eyed Joe." - EC
The mention of seven shots and the "old Spencer Rifle" would seem to be a reference to the Spencer repeating carbine of the Civil War era. According to Mark M. Boatner III, The Civil War Dictionary, 1959 (there are many editions of this very popular work; mine is a Knopf hardcover), p. 782, "SPENCER REPEATING CARBINE. The first successful breech-loading repeating rifled carbine was patented in 1860 by Christopher M. Spencer of Conn. By 1864 it had become the standard arm of the Federal cavalry and by the fall of that year brigades of infantry began to appear with it.... The carbin was loaded by a tubular magazine that passed through the butt of the stock and held seven copper rimfire 52 caliber cartridges." Although it lacked range and penetrating power, it became famous because it could be "loaded on Sunday and fired all week." Thus the reference would seem to imply that the song originated during or shortly after the Civil War. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.3
File: RL128

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The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.

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Subject: RE: Origins: Spencer Rifle
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Sep 18 - 11:42 PM


When Johnny come to our house
I thought he came to see me,
Soon as I found the rascal out,
He’d only come to squeeze me.

Tee eye de ink-tum, tee eye day,
Tee eye de ink-tum dandy.

Took me ‘round the slender waist
An’ on the bed he throwed me,
Purtiest thing that I ever saw,
He pulled it out an’ showed me.

Said it was his little gun,
Asked how it would suit me,
Shoved it down between my thighs
An’ swore by Gosh he’d shoot me!

I says, John, your gun’s no good,
Or you’re no good at gunnin’
If you cain’t hit a lyin’ mark,
What’d you do a-runnin’?

Gee, says John, my gun’s all right,
I got it from old Spencer,
You be still an’ hold the mark
An’ I’ll sure knock it center.

She lay still an’ held the mark,
For him it was no trifle
To soon show her what he could do
With his old Spencer rifle.

Katy was a fair an’ charmin’ maid,
She wasn’t more than twenty,
Time he’d fired seven rounds
He had pork a-plenty.

At last the mother found it out,
Good order she commanded,
John he got in a double charge
An’ shot at her off-handed.

I’ll bring this little song to a close,
I’ll tell you how they parted,
John went off with his gun-barrel bent,
An’ Kate kicked up an’ farted.

Sung by Mr. B. C., Cane Hill, Arkansas, February 5, 1942. He learned this song, in “arms and ordnance” erotic metaphors, from a cattleman near Cane Hill, about 1890. The similarity of the tune to “Yankee Doodle” is unmistakable. In 1:2, “see me” is intended as “please me.” Vance Randolph recorded Mr. C. ‘s song for the Folksong Archive, Library of Congress.

Source: Roll Me In Your Arms: 'Unprintable' Ozark Folksongs and Folklore, by Vance Randolph & G. Legman (pp 128-129)[University of Arkansas Press, 1992]

Randolph recorded the song for the Library of Congress but I don't see how to access the recording.

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Subject: RE: Origins: Spencer Rifle
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 25 Sep 18 - 03:03 AM

Cordelia's Dad - Spencer Rifle!

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Subject: RE: Origins: Spencer Rifle
From: Lighter
Date: 26 Sep 18 - 09:51 PM

The Cordelia tune is a whole lot like Doc Watson's "Katie Morey." So is Booth Campbell's.

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